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How to eliminate data silos to fuel agility and productivity

Published: December 15th, 2020 By: Gary Hilson

Microsoft

Microsoft continues to break down silos with general availability for Azure Synapse; announces new data governance solution Azure Purview

Henrik Gütle, GM, Azure, Microsoft Canada

For those enterprises ready to break down data silos, the general availability of Azure Synapse Analytics after a year in preview should be a welcome tool. Synapse is an analytics service that speeds up time to insight by combining data integration, enterprise data warehousing and big data analytics all into a single service. The introduction of Purview, now available in public preview, adds a layer of compliance to that data in an era of ever-increasing regulatory frameworks and privacy legislation.

“Silos really mean that you have data that is ultimately stored in different places, managed by different teams,” said Henrik Gütle, general manager of Azure for Microsoft Canada. “You have different definitions of the data across the organization. You also have different governance processes across the organization.” Azure Synapse Analytics provides a unified experience, he said, while Purview recognizes the compliance challenges organizations face.

The problem with data silos is they’re easy to create, said Gütle. With the cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) devices generating more and more data, it’s easy to end up with more silos—even in an individual department, he said. It’s become quite simple for a line of business user to spin up a new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application without ever involving the IT department and suddenly there’s yet another silo of data.

While the goal of an individual department is to be more productive, the proliferation of distinct data silos is actually an inhibitor to productivity, said Gütle. Its own finance department was spending as much as 70 per cent of its time on manual analytics, he said. “Everyone was doing it on their own. Compliance and governance aside, just the productivity impact of that is immense.”

It’s not just the time involved that matters, said Gütle, but also whether everyone is on the same page. One department could be doing forecasting based on the calendar year, while another might be doing it by the organization’s fiscal year. All this distributed data may also be subject to different security measures.

Microsoft itself has made a lot of progress moving its own data to Azure to minimize the number of sources as much as possible, while also ensuring compliance, said Gütle. This allows them to execute data analytics in a timely fashion so it can create business insights that lead to competitive advantage.

Breaking down silos is ultimately about improving the agility of an organization, said Gütle, to enable the fast decision-making necessary in the current business climate. But compliance and regulatory pressures must still be addressed. “Making sure you have solid governance over those data sources is super important.”

Purview provides the packaging of all the internal best practices necessary for good data governance so that companies can discover and catalog all their data, no matter where it resides, whether it’s on-premises, in Microsoft Azure or in another public cloud, said Gütle. “It’s the only cloud service out there that helps you map your data no matter where it resides.”

Customers that have used Synapse Analytics have been able to access a common set of data analytics tools and processes that can be applied across the organization. “Companies use it to pull together data silos and combine pipelines into a single environment, which ultimately helps them with a lot of operational efficiencies, but also increased productivity because they now have a unified experience for everyone inside that department,” Gütle said.

Being able to add compliance and governance through Purview is the next logical step, said Gütle. Beyond Purview, he said, Microsoft will continue to develop offerings aligned with the core Azure pillars of security, innovation, hybrid, and openness. “The proposition has always been that we’re the only company that actually provides our customers with a solution to cover their entire data estate all the way from ingestion to visualization for both on-premises and cloud environments with security at its core.”